Looking Sharp in Berlin
Otto Pohl -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Frank F. Drewes didn't want round corners on the sandwich refrigerator.
"My first choice is rectangular," he says, meaning not just refrigerators but everything design-related. And that preference is clearly on display at Baltas, a gourmet coffee and sandwich shop in Berlin. "It's not that I'm anti-round," he clarifies. "But round is more expensive. Round is always my second choice."
Not so for the owners of this 1,100-square-foot café in the city's western Schöneberg neighborhood. Intrigued by Drewes + Strenge Architekten's overall style, they nevertheless insisted that Drewes bend a bit. And ironically, it turns out, all the orthogonal architecture and sharp-cornered furniture draws attention to the few curves that are present—and the establishment's leaf logo in particular.
As a starting point, Drewes says, he stripped everything that remained of the previous bar in order to "neutralize" the space. The new envelope is simplicity itself. White-painted walls, a concrete floor tinted light green, and window frames of meranti, a dark tropical hardwood, embody the restrained color scheme. It's white for cleanliness, green for freshness, and brown for coffee.
Drewes designed all the furniture himself, in meranti mounted flush on stainless-steel legs. To allow greater flexibility of configuration, most pieces are freestanding, including the 8-foot-long meranti-topped service table opposite the coffee bar. The only stationary elements in the room are a bar table by the window and a glass-topped counter built into the back wall. A black mirror hangs above the counter, so patrons can watch the activity behind them.
Since the owners of Baltas hope to roll out their concept as a chain, Drewes designed a look that can be adjusted in different locations. The mobile furniture plays its part. In addition, the Berlin café serves as a testing ground for art and accessories: an enlarged photograph of bread and soup and the leafy lemon trees in tin cube planters.
The biggest metamorphosis occurs at dusk, when the fading light softens the café's straight lines. Paper-shaded candles appear on tables; filtered fluorescents, installed behind the sandwich refrigerator, emit a soft green glow; and the ceiling cove's white fluorescents shift to red.
For now, at any rate. To fine-tune the mood, Drewes says, he could easily change the light or paint a wall: "But it's important," he adds, "to remember the difference between contemporary and trendy."